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tv   The Communicators  CSPAN  June 20, 2011 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT

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gipper. thank you. god bless. [cheers and applause] ♪ [applause] >> this week on the communicators, a discussion of the new head of the cable association with michael powell. this is down at the cable show in chicago.
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>> host: we are on the floor here, and this is your first in the new role for you as head of the national cable association industry's trade group. what's it like to be here versus your old role of a regulator? >> guest: it's different. i've been to many of these shows as a guest speaker, and you don't realize the half of what it goes into putting it on. it's an extraordinary undertaking done by staff committed to it and for 20-30 years the same group puts it together. i feel like it's running for president or something. you are scheduled every three minutes, but it's really our premier window on the wall. it's exciting. not many jobs come with their own show, and it really is the chance to tell the story, and so i'm having a ball with it, but it's very, very, very difficult. >> host: this is a trade show, not a consumer show so so many
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of the people in our audience don't have a sense of what goes on here. what's the theme for this business now as we walk around the floor? >> guest: well, i think our advertising team is everything possible, but i think the real story is cable is beginning to open the book on the next chapter in its history. right? we've all watched, for over a decade now, technology evolution and different it rations of interesting things coming to the home or coming to new devices, and it's really been awhile since we were getting ready to see the cable home experience take that next generational leap, and so the big theme we're seeing is putting it a short way, cable moving to software. you see app stores and app environments moved into the cable space, content is able to be ported to the consumer devices that consumers love like ipads, iphones, all of that stuff. you see new services to be
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layered on top of the platforms in the cloud and moved around on local wifi networks so we heard that for a long time, but you're starting to see actually product build now. it's funny. you say it's a trade show and not a consumer show, but the distinction is starting to blur because consumer equipment is to powerful and consumers are so increasingly sophisticated about their own inactions that it is a trade show, but more and more, i think there's a retail component and what the consumer is going to get next. >> host: i want to pick up on that theme, and i wrote down the words used in one of your speeches and have you explain more what you were thinking. it's a time of great promise, but ambiguity and anxiety. what are you suggesting there? >> guest: i think there's this amazing quality to transformational moment, and i think we're starting a
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transformational moment from a technology standpoint. a few years ago, we didn't know of facebook or iphone or smart phone. before that, we never envisioned a music service broken down into component parts, and my kids being their own record producers. everybody's excited about what the new tools mean for the possibility of product and services, and so there's a sense of infinite possibility, but it's also real uncertainty. if you have a traditional business and you're very, very successful, and you feel the heat of the need to innovate and change, that is anxiety producing and it's an ambiguity because you're not 100% sure where it's going or whether it's profortble to go there and whether consumers will respond to new markets and opportunities, and yet you know you can't standstill. if you are still in this market, you'll get killed.
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the path of companies is littered with companies that really sat and missed this, you know, disruptive change, and then they never could catch up. you know, businesses are full of those stories so, yeah, it's a period of anxiety and ambiguity. there's more we don't know than do know. it's in the public policy too. you'll have a glimpse of a problem and a lot of hypotheticals and speculations about whether it's a real problem or not, and you have to work your way through this discomforting level r not knowing what the next turn is. >> host: your role as head of the ncta and the new technology and ideas, do you see yourself bridging between groups that had friction in the past like the
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commitment manufacturers with your members? >> i think i do. some of the things i love about ncta which attracted me to it because it includes all the components in the system. we have big and small programmers. we have major programming networks. we have affiliates, provider services, and there's tensions in the relationships at times that has to be there through an evolution, but what i like about the cable industry, and it's fairly committed to this is being revolutionary in the blazing of the trail, and part of doing is that how much of our own problems can we solve and how? if there's a dispute or concern, can we bring it to our table first, and not have a false instinct to go to the fcc or hill or use the regulatory process to drop our competitors. we try to reserve our public policy issues for things that
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are really problematic to our ability to continue to run the businesses, and so, yeah, i do think that one of the reasons they wanted me and one of the reasons that it was easy to attract me is they are very, very sincere that in addition to public policy components of the job, to help be an ambassador and diplomat among the groups and break things down. >> host: one of the changes is over your shoulder. i see the big universal sign that is now part of the comcast family. broadcasters and cable companies have gone head to head for years. how does that change the policy discussion? >> guest: great question because we don't entirely know yet. i think it's a fantastic company. they made a bold move. they had to work through that internally first. now they have all proponents within the company reporting to a common boss, but lots of
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historical differences. i know brian is working inside the company and we'll see what happens. in many ways, it changes the dynamic inside the association, but i think on that, it's for the better; right? you have the country's largest operator, also a significant programmer, and it provides, you know, no real alternative. we are an association that now is really bound together as we should have been anyway, but i think comcast helps make that real blue because, you know, you're going to have them, and they're going to be bold, and we have to put all the issues on the table no matter what, and we have to work through them so it's interesting. >> host: sounds like interesting board meetings. let me get into a few issues with you if you don't mind. let me start with this morning where you interviewed the
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current chair, and among that there's the three gaps, one is availability, the other is spectrum, and third is adoption. i want to spend a little time on each. the availability has been an issue that's been a real interest to you permly in your career. >> guest: always. >> host: an aspect of that is the last 7%-10% of the people in this country. what's the impediments to getting service to the last 7% of america? >> guest: great question. if you look at the history and the infrastructure, that's the problem; right? you can create a service up to a certain point, and then the country's density, the country's, you know, diversity of mobility and affordable, you begin to -- not to be geeky, but there's a last gap that's really, really hard, part of the opinion it's hard is geography.
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we're a vast country with rural, you know, big parts of the population where you can wire one home, and the next home is 20 miles away. that's a lot of infrastructure for two potential households. that's always a problem. sometimes it's football. this problem is even more complex because we're finding that it's not just access and it's not brand new and supported around countries; right? why do i need broadband and why is it important? in time, people see that value, but as a country that's trying to make a transition to the knowledge, and an information age, that's an economic imperative that if that's the engine that drives productivity, it's not going to be effective to have two-thirds of the citizens not plugged into it. i think it's really important, but look, fundamentally, it's an
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economic. cost of infrastructure to build it, and there's some efforts for the government to subsidize that, and he's focused on infrastructure to transform that set of subsidies towards broadband to lower the problem, but then there's the continuing problem of operating the service; right? you get the infrastructure out there, and the same two homes are still only $100 a month in revenue so i think that's actually at the end of the day the company part of it; right? you know, even -- how long have we had phone service? close to 100 years, and there's still not 1 00% subscription. we'll always come forward saying it's hard to crack, but i think we're right as a country to say can't we move that a lot closer, and are we collectively committed to that. >> host: rural living has tradeoffs.
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there's not airports or buss services, ect.. what's essential about broadband that the country should spend the resources for the extra effort? >> guest: that's a great question. i think part of it is number one, we're a country committed to fairness and there's a right and equality of opportunity, and there's some recognition that more than a convenience, this is something in a category of more than a convenience, more than a luxury, it may be an up dispensable element of our educational prices and element of job opportunities. it may be an up dispensable element to global productivity and it may be the critical key to health care reform which is going to bankrupt the country if we don't create new efficiencies so i think there is speaking collectively for all of us who say we care, i think there's a
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sense that the entire country's well-being needs to be able to cruise these tools -- use these tools as a way of handling a major national problem. when you say 25% of kids drop out of high school in the united states and in the information age, we say how do we make health care cheaper or we're going to bankrupt the country over health care costs or the next problem and the next problem. it's really great if you can make an assumption to try to solve the problem through an infrastructure with a reasonable basis to assume the majority of your citizens have. i think that's the answer, and i think communications is something different. >> host: related gap is in the adoption area so the numbers are about 67%? and 100 billion households still not, and it's not that they can't get it, but they are not using it. i just wonder about the individual freedom and right to
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say no. >> guest: fair question. if i were being honest, which i always try to be, but look, there's a limit on this; right? i mean, it is not government's role or my role to tell a free-thinking american who doesn't want a service they have to subscribe to a service. it's not to the extent of being overly preacher about it. i do think that there are probably people in that percentage who made a rational conscious choice for themselveses and their family or look at their own disposable income budget and say in our family we value these things more, and it is about our personal values, and we prefer to spend our money this way. we better always be careful to recognize that and make room for that. that being said, the gap is so significant that i think -- and people have surveyed and looked at this enough to believe that this are some things that we think that would drive more adoption that are in the
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religious realm of better education and afford ability. let's be sure they don't make the choice because of how you're significanting or they don't have the infrastructure at all so they don't have a choice to make or, you know, they can't afford a computer so it's not even one of the choices available. >> host: is it so important that there should be government support for the broadband's service or the equipment needed at some point? do you believe it's essential in our society today? >> guest: i think if it's needs-based, it's essential; right? what i love about america, i'm the fiercest free market guy you'll find, i believe we have a collective responsibility to our citizens that we've always been committed to and in 100 years of policy, we always have. i think it's the right thing to do like we have a social safety net. if you fall into this category,
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we let you have no health care or no ability to take care of your child when its sick or let you go hungry. we make efforts to make sure people have that. i think that we do. i think we should be more disciplined than we were last time around means, look, i don't need a subsidy, and the program has been clumsy in the way that it allocates the resources, and should a major wealth ranch in the middle of montana be subsidized? there'd be a lot more money available if we target people who have genuine affordability, general issues of poverty or access of rule, i'd be a lot more comfortable and committed to that than sort of the blanket, oh, it's 7%, so let's spend a fortune subsidizing 7%. i'm not a congressman, but our
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country's broke, and so we better be creative about this because this is not the tennessee valley authority project. i don't think there's a big savior coming in the form of a massive check from the united states congress to solve these problems so we should at least sort of scope the problem realistically against what we have available. the third leg of the gap is the spectrum. that's a big theme around here. all the development of new services turning us into a nation of broadband. there's a consumer who is watching tv and using applications on their ipad and tweeting about it at the same time, and all of that uses space. there's a big discussion and some feel like they are into plumbing, and it's use, and that's a big policy issue. what is the position on how it should be managed to allow
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developments? >> guest: it's multifaceted and it's linnier to understand why there's more. we have a lot of diversity of experimentation going on in the cable industry. there's companies with a plot play offering very traditional telephone-based wireless services in direct competition to at&t or verizon in their markets. other companies made a choice they are not that interested in being a trusted wireless telephone company, but they want wifi or a license or able to use wireless as a network conduit inside the home to walk around with the ipad; right snow you don't want a cord to make it work. you have to have spectrum in a way that allows that experience, and then maybe you want that experience outside the home to a
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degree. maybe you want your own wireless network or roam on others. we have every flavor of that going on in the cable industry. it's hard to say we have a single-minded answer about these things. we do want to make sure we have an opportunity to get access to preace trouble and -- spectrum and that continues to be important. we want congress to be focused on different uses of spectrum, some just as important to us like on license and wifi and not just licenses sold at auction. we watch this. it's not the core issues because there's more people fighting fiercely about it, but it's pretty important. i think this ten years, i asked the chairman today, do you think anybody can be without a wireless plan? ic the right way to say it is can anybody be without mobility? i don't think so. you mean, not going to happen
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anymore? >> host: yeah. >> guest: i don't think so. it's a big boom to the government treasury, and the smartest communication policy choices ever made was the country got off of the other ways of allocating spectrum, lotteries, giving them away. it's inefficient way to raise a lot of revenue. i think it created the right way to allocate spectrum, and so i don't have any doubt that congress will continue eventually to reauthorize off spectrum options. >> host: how about the broadcasters in completing the transition? >> guest: what about them? >> host: seriously, is the pace of this appropriate? it seems as though it's taken a lot time for the spectrum to be returned to the united states. we are not fully digital of the timetable over the year. >> guest: you know, there's two parts. depending what you mean, there's two components of the question. part of it is, you know, there's a long hdtv transition, and part
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of it is the complexity of making the transition, and by the way, we're not the only country. i meat with korean legislatures this week and nervously moving to a cutover too. i wish it had taken less time, but when you start the things, your question about the future, ambiguity. when chairman dick wiley got into this and focused on hdtv, you could have never ever envisioned the way spectrum is being used today on a smart phone, you would not have envisioned wifi, this stuff that is now emerging as an alternate use wasn't there so the tv transition was tv centric, all about just tv. it was just analog to digital
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tv. there was no notion that there was another thing in the equation. not only until more recently and the government now is looking at getting spectrum back because there's a higher and better use. that's a newer transition, and it's hard for broadcasters to swallow. you know, they are trying to work through it, they want to be a part of the digital age too, so that's going to be hard, and for no other reason, it's complex and politically motives; right? somebody's ox might get gored. change does that. >> host: two more questions with regard to spectrum management. one is net neutrality, an issue that's been around for awhile now. you have said at this show, and this was a quote to an interview with broadcasting and cable that net neutrality will become substantially less threatening, and right now there's a great deal of speculation around it. what were you saying? >> guest: well, i find it a tough issue because it does
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involve an enormous amount of speculation. there was not an enormous amount of fear that was occurring. everybody points to maybe four cases of things, some of which are arguably violating the spirit of the principle or not so it's this fear that somebody has an up sentive -- incentive to do things we find inappropriate, and regulate in advance against that possibility. when you're in the early periods of something new, a lot of times your anxieties and fears run away. meaning it's easy to believe the worst happens, and rarely does the worst happen. i long believe and still believe today that most network operators i know have no interest, have no incentive, do not have a real financial incentive, nor do they have a customer base that would tolerate doing the sorts of things that the most avid
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advocates of net neutrality would do, and i think even if there were no rule in my own view, even though we have reached a good place on this, i think you would find that the incentive of most companies would not go in the direction that people had anxiety about. if you look through the history of the internet in a closed system, systems that attempted to buy content in favor of their own, the road, again, is littered with those companies who tried those approaches, and the market caps with those have gone through the roof. the old aol wall guard p, the microsoft network service, we could go on and on about closed, not accessing the internet spaces, and tell me companies that have done that successfully, and then tell me about google, amazon, yahoo,
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facebook, twitter, and i mean, at some point the economics prove that you're operating at your apparel to tell your customers they can't go where they want to on the internet. less are inclined to do that type of thing. >> host: it's the hearing for higher end users paying more. mr. jon leibowitz is surprised it has not taken off more. is that a decision on price hearing or a decision to come from washington? >> guest: i think it'll be a market place decision. the ftc that explicitly in net neutrality, that kind of caring, it was okay, even went so far to say it's the only fair way to manage the network, and we should say something about that. when we say "fairness," you
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know, in a shared network in my neighborhood, the vast majority of my neighbors get e-mail and surf web pages. if one of the neighbors is running a music server because they love music and have 9,000 songs, that shouldn't mean i have a terribly degraded experience, and i have to pay for it, and so economics is completely, what the chairman was saying was economics 101 and mow markets deal with that is differentiate a pricing. it's deficient. if you're the 20% who wants to run the music server, that's okay, but you should pay more for that consumption, and in part though that the family who are doing e-mail and checking web pages can pay less, and so he's surprised because he's an anti-trust thinker, and i am to, and in scholarship, we would say that's the absolutely efficient answer; right?
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if there's a limited amount of capacity, and you have to manage the scarcity and there's power users, the answer is always the same, differentiate price. we do it in every other single place in the economy. we're about to put hot lanes in washington, d.c. so when the road is congested, if you're willing to pay, you get to go into a lane to go a little faster, and this is a government program, and if the road is more congested, they charge you more to go to the fast leap, and it's the same theory. >> host: ride public transportation when it costs more. >> guest: the key is to be sure the low end still has a meaningful choice. >> host: time is runs out quickly. your first year in this job will be the lead up to the election. >> guest: yeah. >> host: what happens in washington in the congressional arena, and the regulatory arena
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for issues you are concerned about the most. is it a period of a lot of activity or do you think that their heads are other places? >> guest: i'm not sure i'm positive i know. >> host: it's an election cycle. >> guest: yeah, i know. i think our issues are actually not going to be front and center moving into the election swirl because i think the economic issues facing the country are profoundly serious. i mean, this is not like kind of serious that the economy is stooping. this is really generationally serious, and, you know, in about a couple weeks, we're going to be in do or die over the debt ceiling. we're going to be in do or die over deficit politics. these are the issues in my judgment to hone the core of the 2012 election, and we're still getting a lot of attention on the hill. i see a lot of congressmen, but they are consumed, almost
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overwhelmed with the magnitude of these problems, so yeah there's communication stuff on the fringes, but i don't think, i don't forget that we'll be in the core of the things. the core of privacy maybe or something in the headlines that facebook had a breach or somebody had a breach. >> host: or the senate had a computer attack. >> guest: yeah, that may get attention. >> host: many more questions, but i'm getted flagged you have to move on. thank you so much. >> guest: proud of what you do. >> host: thank you. >> look for more interviewed from the show in the coming weeks. you can find this and other communicators program at c-span.org. ..

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